That "Mysterious Object" on a Collision Course with Earth Just Burned in Our Atmosphere

By Ria Misra on at

I wasn’t worried. Were you worried?

The Earth’s most infamous hunk of space trash, a rather-large object by the apt-name of WT1190F, has been thwarting astronomers since they first got a glimpse of it back in October.

Its strange behaviour hinted to researchers that they were dealing with space trash, and not an asteroid, for instance. But with all the circulating trash out there, figuring out what kind of trash it was had been tricky. Researchers were finally able to pin down a pretty good hypothesis: It was likely a 7-foot long hollow rocket body, though anything more than that was anyone’s guess.

Today, on the day its trajectory and Earth’s were set to finally hit, it looked as though WT1190F was going to pull one final trick on astronomers: With its scheduled entry into the atmosphere set to happen somewhere off the coast of Sri Lanka’s coast in the bright of day, astronomers thought that it was very likely that it wouldn’t be brilliant enough to see with just the naked eye.

By and large that appears to have been true—except for footage a team with the International Astronomy Center and the UAE’s Space Agency took from aboard an aircraft that caught the whole thing.

From the images, it looks as though it broke up into several pieces in our atmosphere, right before it burned up (presumably completely). There does not appear to have been enough left of the rocket body to actually hit the ocean.

And thus ends the strange, circular journey of WT1190F. Here are the pictures to remember it by:

That "Mysterious Object" on a Collision Course with Earth Just Burned In Our Atmosphere

That "Mysterious Object" on a Collision Course with Earth Just Burned In Our Atmosphere

That "Mysterious Object" on a Collision Course with Earth Just Burned In Our Atmosphere

That "Mysterious Object" on a Collision Course with Earth Just Burned In Our Atmosphere

That "Mysterious Object" on a Collision Course with Earth Just Burned In Our Atmosphere

Images: IAC/UAE Space Agency/NASA/ESA